The ‘Me Too’ movement & reputation risk: How it impacted me

A few years back, the ‘Me Too’ movement rocked almost all of corporate India. Skeletons started tumbling out of multiple corporate cupboards. The media, marketing and communications sectors were not an exception.

Every day, one woke up to a new incident involving some well-known figure being reported. Corporate after corporate set up POSH committees to investigate any complaints.

In a sense what was happening was a catharsis which had been building up for some years. Women realised that this was also an opportunity to come together and unite for their right to decent behavior by their male counterparts, irrespective of the industry category, or sector.

Suddenly, men came to realise that they could not take even the slightest liberty with their lady colleagues. Even a mere handshake with a lady could have grave implications to the careers of many senior male professionals in the business, if the lady thought it to be ‘inappropriate’.

I was one of the people who was at risk, working as I did at India’s largest PR consultancy. In most organisations I have worked for, whether as a client or as a PR practitioner, my team members were largely ladies.

And after a hard day’s work, going out in the evenings for a few beverages with the team was the norm. At least as far as I was concerned. And I used to follow this practice even when I travelled to the firm’s branches. The evenings were a chance to let your hair down, to gossip a bit, and to chat about anything under the sun…there were no bosses and there were no ‘subordinates’ – no hierarchies whatsoever.

One day an incident happened which proved a dampener, as well as a reality check. One of my team members from Bangalore had resigned and the coming Friday was supposed to be her last day. So, I invited my entire Bangalore team for a fun evening to a happening place in Indiranagar that Friday evening – her last day.

This raised quite a storm! It started when a senior resource at the Bangalore office told me that they had an office farewell for any departing employee in office where they had a small ceremony where a cake was cut. Or they had a team lunch. No evening soirees.

I protested. And it got to a point where I ended up on a call with the senior resource from Bangalore and our MD. Both of them appreciated where I was coming from, but they did not relent. They also said that the firm would not be paying for this, which was fine by me, since I as the team lead used to pay myself!

We found a way around this situation.

Since my colleague’s last day was Friday, we decided that we could do the evening session on Saturday, after she was no longer employed by our firm. Everyone loved the idea, and that Saturday evening was a very happy event.

I returned to Mumbai a few days later and had the chance to meet the MD on various matters. The matter about the evening get togethers also came up.

He was most pensive and silent for some time. Then he said, ‘Atul, I hope you realise why I don’t like the evening get togethers. I know it is perfectly normal, but what happens if after imbibing a few beverages, one of the ladies says the next morning that you have behaved in an inappropriate manner. Not only will your reputation be destroyed, but it also represents a significant reputation risk for the firm.’

His words, spoken in all sincerity hit home. Because he was right. The ‘Me Too’ movement had gathered steam, and many people had to try and be someone they were not!

Since that conversation with the MD, I significantly reduced the evening outings.

I certainly did not wish to be accused of something I had not done.

And knowing that the onus of proving innocence lay with the ‘defendant’, it was all too easy to level ‘accusations’.

Mind you, these evening get togethers did happen, and will happen, but that conversation with the MD forced me to relook at things.

Ever since then, while I have had the evening get togethers, I have ensured that nothing I say, or do, can be misconstrued. Some amount of paranoia also crept in, where I found myself actually sitting at a get together with the voice recorder on my phone switched on the entire evening. I can assure you it was no fun recording 3-hour long social conversations.

But I did feel safer. And the catalyst to this change in me, was my MD.

I have never thanked him for his advice. And his insight into the area of reputation risk.

I am thanking him, through this column, today!

Mind you, managing reputation risk for their clients is one of the key reasons why PR consultancies are in business.

The ‘Me too’ movement added one more item to the list of potential reputation risks!


  1. Managing reputation risk is extremely critical, irrespective of what industry sector you work in.
  2. The rightful rise of activism is also something all of us have to be mindful of.
  3. I have celebrated the rise of women power, and so should all you males who work in whatever role, in whichever company.
  4. PR professionals need to appreciate that they have their client’s reputation risk to manage. Don’t add your own reputation risk to the list.
  5. For lady colleagues – try not to misuse the situation, unless the situation seriously warrants it.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Atul Takle
German interpreter. Advertising executive. Client. PR partner.

Lintas. Indian Express. RPG. TCS. Accenture. Future Group. SKS Microfinance. Adfactors PR.

International guest lecturer. Avid Traveler.

Pet friendly. Music friendly. Movie friendly. Book friendly.

Generally friendly.

Covid times cook. All times a foodie.

Mad about soccer. Mad about F1 racing. Mad about cricket.

Mad with Trump.

Sometimes writer.

1 Comment on "The ‘Me Too’ movement & reputation risk: How it impacted me"

  1. Svetlana Pinto | February 9, 2022 at 12:17 PM | Reply

    Very relevant post Atul. I was Chairperson of the POSH Committee at my previous employer for a while. During my tenure we ensured we heard both sides and there was no ‘onus on the defendant to prove innocence’. Having said that, I get where you are coming from.

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